HALLANDALE BEACH, February 2, 2022 – An online letter to the editor at Paulick Report last week spurred memories of something we wrote about years ago.
Hopefully, the following won’t become the place where a possibly good promotional idea for racing goes to die. And I can’t even take credit for originality.
“Smart Bob” from Saratoga conjured this years ago and we wrote about it then, thinking it was an interesting idea and one that continues to have merit now given the modern horse-playing landscape.
A common complaint one often hears when the subject of how to attract new fans to the sport is that racing should learn to promote itself in a brand new, hopefully better way, particularly now with the competition that accompanied the advent of legalized sports betting.
In the world of technology, where there’s an app or an algorithm for everything, something different is needed to attract younger people who don’t mind a little thinking to guide their wagering.
And what could be more challenging and potentially more rewarding than handicapping Thoroughbred races, especially since that high-risk, high-payoff horizontal wagers now dominate the betting space?
The letter referenced was from a transplanted Australian now living in the U.S. who has maintained his love of Thoroughbred racing, mentioning how younger generations got engaged in “social horse-playing” in his native land.
The author said while only a handful of his friends followed racing regularly, a large contingent would get together with their mates for the occasional “weekend quaddie,” Down-Under-speak for Pick 4, at the local pub.
Nearly a decade ago my mate broached the idea of a National Pick 6 wager every Saturday on the best races the sport had to offer. Those stakes would need to be drawn 72 hours in advance so that the public could bet on the sequence for three days. A monetary bonus to incentivize engagement would help, too.
The editorial writer believes, as I do, that this bet’s best chance to succeed has much to do with the prevalence of excellent media and digital platforms available today.
“The Pick 4 Power Hour” would be easily promotable via the NTRA. In the interests of winnability, the Pick 4 owns enough degree of difficulty to produce four-figure payoffs.
If the idea of a Pick 5 with potential five-figure payoffs is better, coordinated post times could have the entire sequence completed within an hour.
But keeping players liquid is needed to hold the audience; a weekly participation reward could be fashioned. Variations on that theme are already in place.
TVG, Regional, and Fox, Sports or some other network hybrid, has the capability to reach the largest audiences possible. The races should be as late in the program as possible, reaching the widest audience.
For optimum promotability and long term profit, the takeout on this unique wager should be 10 percent, 12 percent maximum. Offering the wager on one hub can help overcome disparate state confiscatory restrictions.
Track’s promotional budgets can help sell the notion of a unique national pool with rewards appropriate for participating tracks and their state. Of course, the pool should be made available to all existing ADW platforms.
This wager isn’t about the bottom line per se; it’s about a better way to introduce the sport to a new audience. If done properly, it will grow the bottom line in the long term. Think old-school Irish Sweepstakes only with three more races.
If races need switching to better facilitate timing because there were three stewards inquiries at one particular track, so be it; selections for each race already are set.
Absent national rules, late scratches can be passed on judicially according to the rules in each state, or a new set of guidelines can be crafted governing this one special event.
Engaged fans know what racing’s problems are, and there is plenty of debate on how best to get a handle on them.
But this is one idea that looks toward the future. If you’re not improving, changing the way things done for the better, the world will pass you by. On that you can bet.